Splashing

It rained on the night of our first date. Light, soggy drops that fell past the towering Chicago high rises all around us and made my hair frizzy, plastered his to his forehead. We walked down Lasalle to Gino’s East before the rain began, emerging later onto a late fall night slick with water. The streets shone black, the streetlights reflected in the puddles growing along the curbs.

We didn’t have an umbrella. I didn’t- still don’t- believe in them. Instead, we walked side by side towards the lake, stepping under Chicago Avenue awnings wherever we could. More often than not, the steady drip from the awning’s corner hit one of us, a trickle of cold water running down head, ears, neck.

We walked everywhere that night, as the rain waned, only to pick up once more. He bought me an ice cream cone that I couldn’t finish at Ghirardelli, and then we slipped into the Dunkin Donuts under the train tracks. The same train tracks we’d stand next to, kissing, for our engagement pictures five years later.

The rain had finally stopped as we walked to his car at the end of the night. Huge puddles rippled at each corner, tiny murky ponds at the intersection of street and sidewalk. I jumped over these puddles, my legs stretching wide in an exaggerated leap.

His car sat resolutely in the visitor lot, rain water on the windshield glistening in the bland yellow glow of the streetlight above. One crosswalk away, I picked my foot up, swung my cracked boot though a puddle. For an instant, I watched the spray of water fly from the puddle, from my shoe. Then it landed, leaving the dark marks of moisture on his jeans, his sweater, the sleeve of the arm he’d thrown up to protect himself from my barrage.

We were still caught, then, in the uncertainty, the unfamiliarity of a relationship just barely beginning to form. I didn’t know, as my foot skimmed the puddle, gathering water and momentum as it swung, how he’d react. He laughed, of course. Laughed and came after me, his body shifting towards me, moving across the puddle, through the puddle.

Moments later, I had fled beyond the reach of the puddle and his own splashing feet. His jean hems were wet, his shoes heavy with an evening’s worth of rain water accumulation. Our laughter faded in the hush and lull of goodbyes, tentative agreements to text you later. Minutes later, I had watched his little car disappear around the corner into the big city, and I could feel the stiffening cold settling around my sopping toes.

I know him more now, five years later. Exponentially more. I tease him, still, and sometimes remember the text he sent me later that night, after we’d both gone home and changed into the welcome warmth of dry clothes. My mom loved that you splashed me, he had said. I had grinned then. Chuckling to myself that it was my silly, impulsive moment of daring flirtation that garnered this response.

There’s a weight that comes with knowing him more, now. A responsibility. I’ve a copy of Sacred Marriage on my desk, bookmarked halfway through as I prepare for marriage to this same puddle-splashing man. Speaking about marriage’s knack for reflecting our own sin, drawing attention to flaws we may previously have been able to hide, Gary Thomas challenges readers to not only renounce that sin, but to take steps to do the very opposite thing.

I sat in my kitchen today, unfocused eyes sliding towards the sunlit living room, as I thought about Thomas’s charge. Where do I see my sin most just now, when it comes to this man that I love? And then I knew. In the same way I knew he wouldn’t be mad when I flung that cold puddle water towards him, I knew the way I needed to grow. I knew what my opposite was.

Selflessness is the word I wrote in the book’s margin, tucked alongside the myriad other notes I’ve written there in blue ink. The kind of selflessness that lays down my anger, even when it feels justified, and I can almost taste how good it would feel, just for that fleeting second, to let my temper go. The kind of selflessness that opens my gripping fingers, spreading the palms where I’ve gathered tightly all the things I feel I’m entitled to from my fiancé, and drops them right there on the ground. The kind of selflessness that might still sigh when I see him wrestle with hard things, not because his struggle means less attention, less time for me, but rather because my heart hurts for him, and his pain becomes my own.

There will be more rain for us, in the days and years to come. Real rain, bringing the fresh green of spring, and sometimes the floodwaters of a late summer storm. And figurative rain, bringing blessings we didn’t know we would have missed, and challenges we can’t imagine now. But I can say now, and I’ll say again on my wedding day, and in the days and years after, he’s the one I want to splash with, the one I want to laugh with, the one I want to be selfless with.

~Natalia